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October 17, 2012 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Good camera for shooting ceramics? I'm shooting some ceramics for an Etsy seller (along with some other work) and am wondering whether I'd be good with a basic P&S camera or whether it'd be worth renting a DSLR. If a P&S, do you have a recommendation for purchase that would be good for shooting art and crafts in the future?
posted by liketitanic to Technology (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Shooting stationary things that aren't very tiny is easy with pretty much any camera. You'd be better off investing in some lights rather than an expensive camera for this work.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:23 AM on October 17, 2012


What's your budget? Will you need macro capabilities?

Lighting and staging will be more important than your camera, to be sure.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:24 AM on October 17, 2012


What's your budget? Will you need macro capabilities?

Depends whether it's a renting/buying thing. Maybe on the macro--the artist does some really amazing layered glazes with metals, but I imagine that might be something caught with good lighting anyway.
posted by liketitanic at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2012


Most modern P&S cameras will give you great results. Some good lighting, a simple tabletop setup, and a tripod would be good to have, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing good lighting. Much more important than your camera in this case.
posted by schmod at 9:37 AM on October 17, 2012


Lighting will definitely matter more than your camera, though a small tripod would be a wise investment in any case. My Canon point and shoot can take some amazing pictures of ceramics, but it is sometimes very hard to pick up details (like layered glazes and surface details) or switch it to in-focus macro. It also does not do color as true as with a more substantial DSLR. If you are considering more arts-and-craft photography in the future, experimenting with a DSLR might be a good idea.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2012


Most modern P&S cameras will give you great results. Some good lighting, a simple tabletop setup, and a tripod would be good to have, too.

Yes, this exactly. Keep in mind that in this instance "good lighting" also means "don't use your camera's flash.

Here's a quick shot of my lovely wife's owl cake topper, made from a cupcake. I have a very nice Nikon digital SLR and several lenses. But I just shot this with my iPhone 4. It's lit with a regular floor lamp with a paper shade. The background is just a window. The daylight being much brighter than the inside light makes the background look white.

Modern point-and-shoot cameras generally have very good close-up capabilities for capturing fine details.
posted by The Deej at 10:03 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have used this idea to good effect with a digital P&S to help a friend sell 40k figures. DIY lightbox, less than $10
posted by nile_red at 10:06 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was also going to point you towards the lightbox link.

Tripod + good lighting will give you great results. Camera is secondary.
posted by jsturgill at 10:27 AM on October 17, 2012


Seconding trying a plain ol' camera with a DIY lightbox (a la nile_red's link) before you buy anything. Many point-and-shoot cameras also have a white-balance mode -- select white balance, take a picture of the interior of the lit box to set the camera's white-value to the white of the box, then put your subject inside and snap away. This will ensure that the colors on the ceramics come through without taking on any value from the surrounding light (light sources tend to be yellowish or blueish rather than pure white, so without white balancing your colors might shift slightly toward yellow or blue).

A tripod will be very helpful, especially if you're getting close enough to use macro mode.
posted by vorfeed at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2012


Tripod + good lighting will give you great results. Camera is secondary.

Ditto this. Spend a few bucks on your setup too. A pair painter's spot lamps at a hardware store will run $10 each. If you want to get really fancy, white backer board or fabric panels work well as diffusers for light, to remove specular reflections (seeing the lights on the piece).

Only worry about having a macro mode if you need to take high-detail pictures of items or features less than in inch in size or so. Maker's marks maybe? Macro-capable point and shoots do exist, and some do quite a nice job, but you do pay for it.
posted by bonehead at 10:53 AM on October 17, 2012


N-thing a small, simple tripod. (Search "table top tripod.") You can get a larger tripod if you think you'll use it for other things or need to get crazy with the angles, but really, anything that keeps the camera pointing in one direction will make your life a lot easier.

Buy your lights at home depot and try some DIY diffusers before buying the fancy stuff (cheesecloth, pillow cases, whatever).

Most people who shell out for DSLR's could get away with a good point and shoot. P&S cameras have gotten so, so much better.

And sorry to be Captain Obvious: Remember to clean your lens!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2012


Chiming back in with one tip: when using a tripod with a P&S camera, pressing the shutter can introduce vibration that can make the image blurry if the shutter speed is slow enough. The usual method with an SLR camera is to use a remote release, but P&S cameras don't normally have that function. So, use the self-timer function. Set it for 5 or 10 seconds, and any vibration introduced by pressing the shutter should be gone by the time the image is captured.
posted by The Deej at 12:11 PM on October 17, 2012


Dumb question: he's been using an iPhone 4 camera. Needs convincing that a P&S would be worth it. Is it?
posted by liketitanic at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2012


Dumb question: he's been using an iPhone 4 camera. Needs convincing that a P&S would be worth it. Is it?

This is the age-old truth of photography: a "better" camera rarely makes you a better photographer.

Get some lights, maybe something like this, and a tabletop tripod made for the iPhone and see what results you get. If you get good results, then I wouldn't worry about a P&S. Since getting my iPhone 4, I have not once used my own very nice P&S.

A P&S will have more megapixels and (maybe) more ability to change settings, but neither are necessary for good photos. The advantage of the iPhone, to me, is the ability to send photos directly to email or other sources without having to offload camera card contents to a computer first.

So, try better lighting and see how it does. Keep in mind, the more light you can get on your subject, the faster the shutter will fire (less blur) and the lower the ISO (sensitivity) setting will be (less grain). That equals: sharper, cleaner photos.

To see what the iPhone 4 is capable of, look at these Flickr search results using the keyword "macro."
posted by The Deej at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2012


One note about the iPhone 4: its camera lens cover is notoriously prone to scratching. If your photos look cloudy or blurry, examine the lens cover; it may need to be replaced. Keeping the phone in a case or bumper that prevents the lens cover from dragging on things is the only way to prevent this.

Here is some info.
posted by The Deej at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2012


There are some great blogs out there on photography and my favorite, specifically for lighting, is Strobist. Here is a Strobist box light that you can build for $10 which could be useful for taking a shot that puts all the focus on the product. You can line it with black, shades, or really anything that works for the product.

Good Luck : )
posted by MansRiot at 3:42 PM on October 17, 2012


Re: lighting for ceramics, it's pretty important to have fabric/umbrellas to diffuse the lights especially for glassy glazes, otherwise you wind up with annoying reflections. You might want to also consider including something in one of the shots that provides scale. For etsy, I think buyers like photos in realistic settings versus the classic ceramic slide photo w/ a gradient background.
posted by tangaroo at 8:01 PM on October 17, 2012


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